RESTORATION comedy The Way of the World, opening at the Crucible this week, marks the professional stage debut of Ben Lloyd-Hughes.
“I always wanted to do theatre and spent three years at Guildhall in classical training and dreamed of doing theatre. I am so excited about this,” he says.
What’s surprising about that, given the amount of television work he has clocked up, is to discover he only graduated last summer.
While at St Paul’s School in London he landed parts on television. “On the same day as I did my theology A-level I auditioned for Skins,” says the actor who played the psychotic Josh Stock in the teen drama.
After that he got an agent and went on to appear in Abi Morgan’s much-vaunted Fifties mini-series The Hour, playing Dominic West’s brother-in-law, was the future leader of the Labour Party in Milliband of Brothers with his own actor brother, Henry (from The Inbetweeners), as David, and had a role in TV mini-series Personal Affairs.
That was followed by another series, Young James Herriot, and he will be seen later this year in the movie version of Great Expectations, playing the loathsome Bentley Drummie, the man who ends up marrying Estelle.
Sounds as if he specialises in bounders so is it more of the same in The Way of the World in which he plays Mirabell, the high society playboy with a devious plan to snare the rich and beautiful Millamant by sucking up to her indomitable aunt, Lady Wishfort?
“I’ve played a lot of suave rotters but Mirabell is not a rotter,” he insists. “He’s is a ladies’ man, the romantic rake of the story and most of the girls are pretty much in love with him.
“The whole story depends on him pulling off an Oceans 11-type scam – getting the money and girl and the getaway.
“There’s an attitude of belief and confidence about him and everyone idolises him. What’s important about Mirabell is that he is just at the end of his patience with the scene and the world and is about to break free of it all. He doesn’t want to continue his life in this way. But he has one more thing to do – marriage, inheritance and money.”
The production, directed by Sheffield Theatres’ associate director Lyndsey Turner, is not being done as a costume piece but in a modern context. “Lyndsey talks about it being five years in the future,” says Lloyd-Hughes. “We are not doing it in wigs and heavy corsets and tights but it’s in a world of style and fashion but not a specific period.
“What I like so much about the character and what’s important about the play is that he is king in this world but he has had enough of it and can see through the bullshit and the pretence.
“You find a character in this play on the point where is about to break free. It’s important the audience know what’s going on. You see how much he loves this girl and is willing to do anything to marry her. He’s fallen for someone in a big way and prepared to risk all to get her – and more importantly the money.”
The Way of the World is previewing until Tuesday and then continues until February 25.